Protecting seniors from scammers focus of new Washington state law

There’s a careful dance that every adult eventually has to do with their aging parents. The grown offspring have to balance respect for their parent’s independence while ensuring they are still capable of managing their own affairs.

Too much interference and the parents can feel insulted at what they perceive as meddling. Too little, and the parents may make some decisions that can harm their financial security.

It’s the space in between that has become the prime hunting ground for scammers looking to part trusting seniors from their life savings.

It’s a sector of crime that is grossly underreported by financial advisors as it generally happens right under their noses. And if word gets out, their reputations can take a damaging hit.   

But Washington State has taken steps to both bring attention to and tackle the issue. To that end, Attorney General Bob Ferguson created a law addressing a new crime: stealing from vulnerable adults. The law includes a lengthened statute of limitations of three to six years after the crime to ensure prosecutors have ample time to build a case.

What makes this troubling is that sometimes those taking advantage of the elderly are also those responsible for caring for them – with trusted family and friends included in that cohort.

It can and does happen.

That’s why we check in with our clients from time to time, after they’ve put an estate plan in place, to make sure family dynamics or other factors haven’t changed the assumptions that provided the basis for the original plan. Something as simple as a new power of attorney can have a significant impact on a plan that will require modifications.

I hope Washington State’s progress on this issue makes its way across the rest of the country. As the boomers make their way into the senior ranks, there is likely be be a corresponding surge in crimes against the vulnerable. It’s the job of financial planners and attorneys to protect the rights of our clients. There is no such thing as a “one and done” plan.

If you want to talk about updating your will, estate plan or powers of attorney, please contact us.